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Plague Doctor and a Letter to Ruth

on September 26, 2010 - 8:39pm


Another long overdue post. We'll start with the last Plague Doctor that was sold at Festival of Fear.

Playing around with the texturing on his mask, I ended up giving this fellow an orange/yellow finish which I really liked. I was entertained by how such a warm colour still came across as remarkably dark and sinister, regardless of its bright tones.

I've also started using metallic paints for the eye goggles, and I think this makes such a difference in appearance (not that my earlier versions looked bad, but it certainly adds a new dimension).

I hope to experiment further with different colours in the future.

But now, I have to write about Ruth who adopted one of my earlier Plague Doctors. I've been meaning to email Ruth back for months...that's right, months. And I've felt very guilty about not making the time to do so, especially because her story and comments touched my heart.

Ruth actually got one of my figures as a present. I didn't know how she'd react to it, especially since it turned out Ruth actually works in a field that deals with infectious disease. AND she had been to Italy, and had seen the wonderful Plague Doctor masks made by people with far more skilled hands than I.

Ruth's sister, Sarah, found me through a random search online. Sarah saw my Plague Doctors and sent me an email, telling me all about Ruth and a trip to Italy, and how the Plague Doctor would make the perfect gift. I'll quote Ruth from a comment left on the blog, and let her tell the story:

When travelling in Italy during June 2010, my sister and I walked along the same streets in Venice where others had walked during the great plague of 1348-1350...Being particularly interested in infectious diseases and their impact, I looked for a replica of the Plague Doctor during our two-week vacation and was never able to find one. My sister contacted you and purchased one of your creations and I have to tell you that it is perfect! I have it displayed in my office and it is already a source of conversation. Thanks for your great work. I hope my note inspires others to take notice of your art.

And in an email from her (I hope you don't mind that I'm sharing this, Ruth):

The long back coat and hat, the eye protection, and the beak nose are perfect. The scarf around his neck looks just like bandage material so it is a great touch. I have named him Herb for the herbs that were probably stuffed in his beak to help block the smell associated with the millions that died from the plague in 1348. Herb is prominently displayed on the shelf in my office and that is the first thing people see when they come in. I will use him as a prop as I teach incoming public health students beginning next month. He is already popular and has a growing reputation here in the school. Thanks again and I look forward to all of the fun and conversation he will inspire. It is also a tribute to the strides we have made in public health over the course of the last 700 years.

I kept putting off my response to Ruth because I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to make sure I took the time to fully express what her email meant to me.

I mean...how do you begin to thank someone for such a compliment? And to learn that my art is now a tool for teaching others...that's just the highest honour I think I could get.

So thank you, Ruth. Thank you so much.

And I love that you called him Herb.

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